People worth tackling
YOU’RE STROLLING around the conference venue minding your own business when you happen upon an important mining industry personality. What do you do? Wander haplessly towards the coffee stand and stale doughnuts, pick up a corporate brochure you know you’ll never read or stand your ground and make like a journalist? But you only have time for one question. So what is it? AS ONE of the world’s most accurate commentators on the gold market, this is a meeting you can’t afford to botch. By all accounts, Murenbeeld is one of the more courteous members of society, as well as being frighteningly good at matters involving gold. Interestingly, his usual method of forecasting the gold price is not to actually forecast it at all but to set out scenarios in which the metal may trade. Each scenario is given its own informing features.
What not to say: “So when is gold going to US$3 000/oz and what do you think of the campaign by the world’s banks (Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan in particular) to suppress the gold price?”
Murenbeeld has an economist’s eye for the gold price and tends to fight shy of conspiracy theories, no matter how compelling they may sound.
To even start vaguely impressing Murenbeeld, try asking about the double US deficit and whether its potential effects on the value of the US dollar will continue to inform the price of gold.
African Platinum CEO
Chief economist, Dundee Group of Companies IF ROY PITCHFORD looks slightly more worn around the eyes it could be due to the struggle for supremacy under way at African Platinum. So best approach Pitchford carefully.
And don’t mention the war. That’s the battle with North Sound Capital, Afplats’s largest single shareholder (13%), which hopes to repeat last year’s shareholder activism. It was North Sound Capital, a US hedge fund, that successfully forced Afplats chair-
man Edward Hansard to resign because it believed he was not up to the job.
Now North Sound is asking Afplats to increase the R1,1bn sale price on about 30% of the company to Impala Platinum. That’s equal to £0,45p, but North Sound reckons it should be £0,70/share and says it can rustle up 30% of shareholder opposition. It’s all very distressing for Pitchford, who won’t confirm North Sound is the dissenting shareholder.
If it’s confrontation you want, try asking whether his deal with Impala
is going to fall through.
You can ask Pitchford his view on platinum group metals prices, or whether the company will list on the JSE (answer: no), or even if he thinks Afplats’s main asset, Leeuwkop, could really produce 1m oz of PGMs.
However, if it’s outright confrontation you want try asking whether his deal with Impala is about to fall out of bed and why he thinks North Sound is taking that adversarial stance. Is it really because the US hedge fund has gone through difficult times and needs to reap as much profit from its remaining investments as possible?
SANDILE NOGXINA SA’s Department of Minerals & Energy Director-General
DON’T BE DECEIVED by his happy and welcoming demeanour. Sandile Nogxina, who is sure to be trawling through the conference corridors, is one of SA mining’s most influential figures. He’s also an advocate and, according to speculation, worked in the intelligence division of the ruling African National Congress’s military unit, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
With a direct line to Cabinet (as well as Moscow, some say), Nogxina helps decide whether SA’s largest and smallest mining companies get their licences to mine in SA. You could just ask whether the licensing process, by which SA and foreign firms achieve their security of tenure in return for promising black empowerment, is speeding up.
Don’t be deceived by the happy
welcoming demeanour. This man makes mining executives cry.
But you could also ask why Impala Platinum’s application to earn new order mining licences has hit a rock; whether Anglo Platinum has a chance any time soon of achieving the same; and whether demands to sell 51% control of a new order prospecting licence is killing SA’s exploration industry.
It’s all touchy stuff, including a report by SA’s Chamber of Mines, which said mining laws had deprived SA of between R5bn and R10bn in fixed investment. You could ask him – if you dare.
GREG KINROSS CIC Energy CEO
GREG KINROSS has a menacing, prowling ambition about him – which you’d probably want if you were a shareholder in the company. It suggests hunger for success and a latent aggression just bubbling below the surface. You’ve got one chance at a question and, currently, the best mining poser for Kinross is who’s going to win the contract for the US$5bn Mmamabula coal project in Botswana.
Last year, British firm International Power was appointed the independent power producer to the Mmambula project, but there hasn’t been a decision on which company will mine the deposit, effectively on SA’s border. Kinross said at the time of International Power’s appointment in October that an update on the mining contract was due in November.
The first phase of the project will involve the development of a 12m t/year coalmine. “We hope to have that tied up by year-end,” said Kinross at the time. Still waiting.